What I Learned at Rosebud’s
On a recent summer vacation, my family and I had the opportunity to eat at Rosebud, located on the famous Rush street, in the heart of downtown Chicago. Rosebud’s, like many of the bustling restaurants in the area, serves exceptional Italian fare on a quant street corner, perfect for people watching and taking in the sights of the city. What made this dining experience so memorable was not the outdoor European feel, the attentive wait staff, the delicious eggplant or the crisp wine, but rather watching the manager as he graciously drifted through the tightly packed bistro.
Immediately upon receiving our meal, a well-dressed Italian man in a crisp white shirt and tasteful tie, who I had not previously seen, approached our table and asked on simple question: “How is everything?” Having been expertly assisted by the knowledgeable wait staff, a generous portion of delicious eggplant parmesan staring back at me, and a full glass Sauvignon Blanc in front of me, an honest and enthusiastic “excellent” was my response.
His warm demeanor, friendly smile and corny jokes about my wife being my daughter, added to the fun and relaxed environment of the restaurant.
The second was his continued interaction with both the wait staff that took our orders and delivered our food, and the busboys that were responsible for clearing the tables. If an additional plate needed to be served as the food arrived, he stepped in and did it. If a table needed to be bussed, he assisted the bus boy, joyfully engaging him in casual conversation while he worked. If a wine glass became frightenly to low on wine, stepped in and filled it. All the while, thanking customers as they exited the restaurant and greeting those as they entered.
As leaders of our practices, we can learn a lot about how this restaurateur ran his business. First, our primary responsibility is to joyfully serve our team. This means creating a culture of consistently looking for ways to make their jobs easier and more efficient. This means creating systems and processes to make their jobs less stressful, more enjoyable and more effective. This means stepping up when needed to do the job, even when it may not be our own.
The second is taking a genuine concern for both our customers and their experience in our offices. Too often, as doctors, we hide in the dungeons of our private offices or the labyrinths of our exam rooms not fully engaged in the experience of our customers. It’s understandable that we find ourselves most comfortable in the environment that we were trained, the clinic, however, for our customers, the exam room experience is only a small portion of their entire experience. It’s time to get out of that dungeon and step out into the spotlight. Get into your retail space and engage with your opticians while they are assisting your patients. Give your honest opinion and feedback about a frame that a patient is trying on for the first time. If it doesn’t look good, say so. If you think a different color or shape would work better, just so say. You may not feel comfortable in this role at first, however, with a little time and practice, you will begin to feel more comfortable and rewarded by the multitude of ways we touch our patient’s lives every day. Your sincere honesty, concern and engagement will provide far greater joy than simply performing exams or looking at your monthly financial reports.
Leadership is often mistaken for “telling others what to do”, when in fact, true leadership is a choice to serve others. It’s a decision to joyfully sacrifice ourselves to help those that we lead. In doing so, we create cultures of trust and safety, and environments that allow our teams to excel at their jobs. The result is that our actions, behaviors and attitudes become contagious to those we serve, and this contagiousness gets passed along to our patients and customers.
We all know that smoking is addictive. But science has proven that smoking is also contagious, along with obesity, divorce and happiness. Just like the flu, the actions and behaviors of the leader infect those around us and those that we lead. And as we engage with our staff and customers, both positively and negatively, our actions become the actions of those with which we directly interact, and they in turn, directly impact those in which they interact and serve. In fact, while many studies agree that divorce occurs in 40-50% of first time marriages, the Pew Research Center reports likelihood of divorce among married couples increases by 75% when a close friend or family member divorces (defined as one degree of separation) and by 33% when a friend of a friend divorces (two degrees of separation). 
We are a social species and are biologically designed to care for, nurture and support those around us. It is in our giving that we in turn receive from others, and as leaders, it’s important that what we spread positively impacts those round us. We must stay true to our role as leaders by providing service to those that follow us, avoid becoming arrogant or self–serving in our roles, and express our joy and gratitude along the way.
We must remain focused on our two most important roles as leaders: providing service to those that we lead by creating environments that allow them to thrive; and staying committed to and engaged with our customers. By “bussing tables” when needed to help those that we serve, we lead by example, create cultures of safety and allow our teams to fulfill their greatest potential. Our contagiousness, in turn, allows our teams to infect our customers with the type of experience that Rosebud’s succeeded in infecting me.